HomeVietnamese AmericanArrest of renowned Vietnamese journalist draws global protest

Arrest of renowned Vietnamese journalist draws global protest

Vietnamese authorities arrested prominent journalist, blogger, and author, Truong Huy San, earlier this month for content posted on social media. In response, multiple human rights organizations and activists have been protesting his arrest and demanding his instant release.

San, better known by his pen name, Huy Duc, originally served in the Vietnamese army for eight years during the 1980’s prior to becoming a journalist. He started his journalism career in 1988, joining the staff of Youth Newspaper (Bao Tuoi Tre), in Ho Chi Minh city, where he tirelessly covered and reported on Vietnamese politics, and later worked for multiple other Vietnamese newspapers.

San founded a blog in 2006 where he commentated on social and political topics, but was fired from his newspaper job in 2009. His blog was shut down in 2010 by Vietnamese authorities. Since then, he has been reporting as an independent journalist, publishing articles about social, political, and environmental topics in Vietnam on Facebook.

In 2012, while spending a year at Harvard University on a Nieman Fellowship, San wrote The Winning Side, a journalistic account of post-war Vietnam that is widely considered to be one of the most important books about Vietnam’s post-war history and politics.

San was arrested on June 1, because of “abusing democratic freedoms” by posting Facebook articles that “infringed on the interests of the state and the legitimate rights and interests of organizations and individuals.”, according to a report by the New York Times. These charges are under Article 331 of the Penal Code, which is a “an overly broad law that the authorities frequently use against critics of the government”, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said.

His arrest was confirmed by Vietnamese authorities on Friday night, with his family, who had no news prior, also being notified of his arrest. San’s Facebook account had amassed over 350,000 followers before it was shut down on June 1, and his house and workplace were searched, as stated by Vietnamese media.

According to another report by HRW, neither San’s family or lawyer have been allowed to meet with him since his incarceration.

Patricia Grossman, associate Asia director at HRW, said “By wrongfully arresting Huy Duc, the Vietnamese authorities are targeting one of Vietnam’s most courageous and influential journalists”. “International donors and Vietnam’s trade partners should denounce Huy Duc’s arrest as a blatant assault on free expression and urge his immediate release.”, continued Grossman.

The 88 Project, an American non-profit that advocates for human rights in Vietnam, shared screenshots with the New York Times and wrote a post critical of Vietnam’s police titled “A COUNTRY CANNOT DEVELOP BASED ON FEAR.”.

On May 28th, San posted an article criticizing Nguyen Phu Trong, the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam. His most recent posts prior to his arrest, according to the HRW, “warned about the myriad dangers posed by the concentration of power in Vietnam’s notoriously repressive Ministry of Public Security”, while another called out the failures of an official anti-corruption campaign by the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam.

“Huy Duc is the most influential journalist in Vietnam”, Ben Swanton, a director at the 88 Project, said in an interview with the New York Times. “His arrest represents an alarming attack on freedom of the press and is the latest in an ongoing crackdown on reformers.”

According to Spectrum News, San was set to attend a small public event in Hanoi on June 1 but failed to show up. Friends then discovered that police have went to his home and arrested him and spread the news of San’s detainment on social network.

At the same time, Vietnamese authorities also arrested lawyer Tran Dinh Trien, who represented clients in high-profile cases. Trien faces the same charges as San and was also arrested because of content posted on his Facebook.

The arrests of both San and Trien are a part of an intensified crackdown on critics by Trong. Ever since 2016, journalists, human rights and environmental activists, bloggers, and those who have criticized the government or demanded reforms have faced imprisonment.

According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), “Journalists critical of the regime are regularly accused of disseminating ‘propaganda against the state’ or ‘abusing democratic freedoms’ and can be sentenced to up to twenty years in prison.”.

These actions have drawn increasing condemnation from human rights organizations and activists across the globe, who have called for the immediate release of all journalists and other’s detained by the Vietnamese government.

On Friday, RSF tweeted “According to RSF sources, political commentator #HuyDuc, who has been missing since June 1st, is being held by the police in #Hanoi after publishing several articles on the political instability of the regime. We call for his immediate release!”.

“The articles of independent journalist Huy Duc are an invaluable source of information enabling the Vietnamese public to access censored information by the Hanoi regime”, said Cédric Alviani, the Asia-Pacific Bureau director of RSF, in a statement released Friday. “We call on the Vietnamese authorities to immediately release this journalist and to reinstall his Facebook page.”.

Shawn Crispin, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CJP)’s senior Asia representative, said that “Vietnamese authorities should immediately disclose where they are holding journalist Truong Huy San and release him unconditionally”, in a statement released Thursday. “Vietnam must stop treating journalists like criminals and release all members of the press wrongfully held behind bars.”.

According to the 2024 World Press Freedom Index by RSF, Vietnam ranks 174th out of the 180 countries and territories listed. Vietnam was also the fifth-worst jailer of journalists worldwide, with 19 journalists detained as of December 1, 2023, according to the latest annual global prison census by the CJP.

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